READ MORE - BENDIGO ADDY FOOTY CHALLENGE - week nine scores
BENDIGO LEAGUE – ROUND 9
MARYBOROUGH v STRATHFIELDSAYE
2.20pm Saturday at Maryborough.
Back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014 will instill some confidence among the re-emerging Magpies, and they will need every bit of it if they are to compete with the rampant Storm.
172-30; 230-8; 135-59 and 162-28 are the scorelines the Storm have produced against teams outside the top five in their past four games, showing just what a daunting challenge awaits the Magpies at Princes Park.
Last time: Strathfieldsaye 30.25 (205) def Maryborough 7.4 (46).
Head to head: Strathfieldsaye 16; Maryborough 4.
EAGLEHAWK v KANGAROO FLAT
2.20pm Saturday at Eaglehawk.
Strong statement from the Hawks last week, particularly defensively, in keeping Kyneton to just one goal in a 125-point victory and a timely percentage booster.
Veteran Tim Hill, Lachlan Atherton, Jack Fallon and Trent Bacon have all returned to the Hawks' side in recent weeks in a major positive for the reigning premiers ahead of their match with the Roos, who have been outscored 70 goals to 23 in their four previous games this year against top five sides.
Last time: Eaglehawk 11.16 (82) def Kangaroo Flat 6.6 (42).
Since 1995: Eaglehawk 32; Kangaroo Flat 19.
GOLDEN SQUARE v GISBORNE
2.20pm Saturday at Golden Square.
This week's marquee match-up featuring second and third on the ladder.
For Gisborne, it's the third leg of a testing three-week period in which it has already accounted for fellow top five sides Eaglehawk (30 points) and Sandhurst (26).
Those wins, though, could have been by greater margins had it not been for Gisborne's inaccuracy in which it kicked 17.23 and 14.20.
Poor conversion has also been an issue for Golden Square in recent weeks, particularly in first quarters.
Square's past three first quarters have yielded an overall 8.24, while the side's combined tally for its past three games stands at 38.54.
Which team will make more of their opportunities this weekend?
Last time: Gisborne 7.16 (58) def Golden Square 7.13 (55).
Head to head: Golden Square 24; Gisborne 22; Drawn 1.
SOUTH BENDIGO v CASTLEMAINE
2.20pm Saturday at Harry Trott Oval.
Both teams would be disappointed with their output so far, with just one win between them.
Hopefully, for the Magpies' sake they can afford to play Angus Monfries forward, rather than loose in defence this week, while the Bloods will be wanting more avenues to goal than just Kaiden Antonowicz, who kicked all four of their majors against Strathfieldsaye last week.
Last time: South Bendigo 24.12 (156) def Castlemaine 6.7 (43).
Since 1995: South Bendigo 34; Castlemaine 16.
SANDHURST v KYNETON
2.20pm Saturday at QEO.
Tough mid-season period for Kyneton to navigate.
The Tigers have lost to Maryborough and kicked just one goal against Eaglehawk in their past two games and now have a run of three matches against the trio of Sandhurst, Golden Square and Gisborne.
Tigers' coach Luke Beattie has challenged his team to lift its contested ball work-rate, which no doubt the likes of Sandhurst's Blair Holmes, Adam Parry, Zac Pallpratt, Nick Stagg and co will be ready to meet head-on.
Last time: Sandhurst 24.9 (153) def Kyneton 6.13 (49) - 1st semi-final.
Since 1995: Sandhurst 38; Kyneton 11; Drawn 2.
LODDON VALLEY LEAGUE – ROUND 10
NEWBRIDGE v CALIVIL UNITED
2.15pm Saturday at Newbridge.
The Maroons and Demons have won the past two premierships between them, but at the halfway mark of 2019 neither is in the top five.
The Demons have just two wins for the season, but coach Andrew Freemantle is confident his side's past month in which it has competed with top five teams Pyramid Hill, Mitiamo and Maiden Gully YCW shows it can still be dangerous.
You'd expect this to be a much closer contest than the 75-point margin Newbridge won by in round one.
Last time: Newbridge 18.12 (120) def Calivil United 7.3 (45).
Since 1995: Calivil United 37; Newbridge 19.
MARONG v INGLEWOOD
2.15pm Saturday at Marong.
The second half of the season starts without a win on the board for the Blues.
Last week against the second-bottom side in Calivil United looked a golden opportunity for the Blues, but the result was a 103-point hiding, which they need to regroup from for the clash with the Panthers, who are also coming off a triple-figure defeat of 108 points to Mitiamo.
Last time: Marong 17.13 (115) def Inglewood 10.6 (66).
Since 1995: Marong 34; Inglewood 14; Drawn 1.
MITIAMO v MAIDEN GULLY YCW
2.15pm Saturday at Mitiamo.
Both teams were touted pre-season as two of the leading flag contenders.
The Superoos are living up to their status at 7-1 and with both a potent forward line and the No.1 ranked defence in the competition that in six of their eight games has held the opposition to less than 50 points.
The same can't be said of Maiden Gully YCW.
While the Eagles may be sitting fourth, they are 0-4 against fellow top five sides, with all but one of those losses by at least six goals.
The challenge is laid down for the Eagles on Saturday to prove they're still capable of having an impact of significance this year.
Last time: Mitiamo 14.6 (90) def Maiden Gully YCW 6.7 (43).
Since 1995: Mitiamo 35; Maiden Gully YCW 24.
BRIDGEWATER v PYRAMID HILL
2.15pm Saturday at Bridgewater.
The Bulldogs begin the second half of the season with an unblemished 8-0 record and proving the competition's new benchmark.
Massive test on its home ground for the fifth-placed Mean Machine, which will be striving for a far more competitive showing than the 84 points it lost by against the Bulldogs in round one.
Last time: Pyramid Hill 18.15 (123) def Bridgewater 5.9 (39).
Head to head: Bridgewater 31; Pyramid Hill 24; Drawn 1.
HEATHCOTE DISTRICT LEAGUE – ROUND 9
LEITCHVILLE-GUNBOWER v WHITE HILLS
2.15pm Saturday at Gunbower.
At this stage it looks like there's going to be room for just one of the Bombers or Demons in the finals, making this a crunch game for both.
The Demons are hitting their straps, albeit without a scalp of note yet, while the Bombers showcased their scoring prowess in their previous game before the bye with their 124-point win over Huntly that gave the league a timely reminder not to overlook the two-time reigning premiers.
Last time: Leitchville-Gunbower 11.18 (84) def White Hills 7.13 (55).
Head to head: Leitchville-Gunbower 11; White Hills 7.
COLBINABBIN v NORTH BENDIGO
2.15pm Saturday at Colbinabbin.
Belter of a game to close out the first half of the season as first and third lock horns.
The Grasshoppers head into the clash off the back of five wins in a row, which includes victories over fellow top five sides Mount Pleasant (45 points) and White Hills (2) the past fortnight.
But the level of opposition steps up on Saturday in the Bulldogs, who are also 6-1.
A massive percentage of 216.8 is testament to how well the Bulldogs - the only team in the competition not to concede more than 100 points - are playing at both ends of the ground.
The winner of this clash will be sitting a game clear on top at the halfway mark.
The Bulldogs have won their past seven games against the Grasshoppers, all by at least four goals.
Last time: North Bendigo 18.19 (127) def Colbinabbin 13.10 (88) - preliminary final.
Head to head: Colbinabbin 27; North Bendigo 27.
HEATHCOTE v ELMORE
2.15pm Saturday at Heathcote.
Not going to be many better opportunities for the Saints - who haven't tasted victory since round 13 last season - to get a win on the board this year.
They are playing at home against an Elmore side that has lost four in a row by margins of 94, 112, 65 and 95 points.
Should be two desperate teams going at it.
Last time: Elmore 17.5 (107) def Heathcote 11.14 (80).
Since 1995: Elmore 32; Heathcote 22; Drawn 1.
HUNTLY v MOUNT PLEASANT
2.15pm Saturday at Huntly.
Will the AFL trend of mid-season coaching changes spark an immediate response at Huntly like it has for Carlton and North Melbourne?
Denis Grinton this week stood down as coach of the Hawks due to personal reasons, with former coach Stacy Fiske taking the helm.
Fiske's first assignment in charge of the young Hawks is hosting a Mount Pleasant side on the rebound from its second loss of the season to Colbinabbin last week.
Last time: Huntly 18.18 (126) def Mount Pleasant 9.7 (61).
Since 1995: Mount Pleasant 31; Huntly 18.
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.